Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Review: The Darwin Awards II

A Fair Trade Book

Title: The Darwin Awards II

Author: Wendy Northcutt

Author's web site:

Publisher: Dutton / Penguin

Date: 2001

Length: 240 pages including index

Quote: “Darwin Awards commemorate those individuals who ensure the long-term survival of our species by removing themselves from the gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion....We are not poking tasteless fun at accidents. On the contrary! Darwin Awards poke fun at decisions that were obviously wrong at the time.”

The easiest way to find out whether you like the Darwin Awards is to click over to Northcutt's web site, which is updated with fresh feats of stupidity and links you can use to buy new books in the series. If you feel very strongly that a story isn't funny if a person gets hurt, you might not enjoy the site or the books, because Darwin Awards are issued only for true stories of people either killing or sterilizing themselves. If you laugh at the world-class stupidity demonstrated in these stories, don't feel too bad; the books have been marketed as humor and have sold fairly well.

It would probably be a stretch to say that the redeeming social value of the Darwin Awards is that they teach us basic safety lessons. People who needed the kind of safety tips the Darwin Awards teach are probably beyond help. These are reportedly true stories about people who attempt to perform liposuction with a household vacuum cleaner, hide in walk-in meat coolers until they freeze to death, and dive off seventy-foot walls into three-foot water. Each story is guaranteed to make readers shake their heads and say “Duh...” never know what kids will think of next, and if you know a kid who's going through the "Ha-ha, I'm riding a bike without a helmet, I'm in a car without a seat belt, and I'm still alive, so there" stage, these are excellent books to hand to that kid. Very cool, bland, matter-of-fact way to let the kid see what kind of stunts are likely to lead to pain, death, and also being remembered as stupid rather than brave.

Although Wendy Northcutt probably does believe the controversial theory of macroevolution, which this web site does not endorse, you don't have to believe in macroevolution to appreciate the Darwin Awards. What these posthumous awards for outrageous, self-destructive stupidity commemorate is microevolution, the fact that makes selective breeding possible. If you agree, even for the sake of argument, that stupidity as stupefying as these feats probably depends on a genetic defect, then you can appreciate the concept behind this book.

If you want to read the stories of the student (what college admitted him?) who lay across railroad tracks “to see how close he could get” (to moving trains) “without getting hit,” the man who thought it was safe to pop the magazine out of a “semiautomatic” pistol and pull the trigger while pointing the pistol at his head, and the man who tried to steal the copper cable that powers an electric train, this book is for you.

It's a Fair Trade Book. To buy it online, send salolianigodagewi @ yahoo $5 per book + $5 per package. (I'd like to specify which of the other volumes in the series are also available as Fair Trade Books, but this computer, the Sickly Snail, can't even open Amazon. Basically, books that are still being sold as new books under the original author/publisher contract aren't available as Fair Trade Books; books that are widely available secondhand are.) When you send us this total of $10, we send Northcutt or a charity of her choice $1. If you buy six of these books, you send us $35 and we send Northcutt or her charity $6.